Judy Singer, a sociologist, created the term “neurodivergent” in 1997:
“Neurodiversity refers to the virtually infinite neuro-cognitive variability within Earth’s human population. It points to the fact that every human has a unique nervous system with a unique combination of abilities and needs.”
People’s brains function in a variety of ways. The theory of neurodiversity helps us perceive difference as a normal aspect of humanity and pushes us away from stigmatising disability.
The term “neurodiversity” was established to characterise people with autism, but it has now been expanded to cover ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, Tourette’s syndrome, and chronic mental health illnesses such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
Neurodivergent employees often struggle in the workplace, from the hiring process to the job itself as there aren’t adequate policies in place to help them succeed. Workplaces lack specific training to help neurodivergent people thrive, which is something that needs to change in the modern workplace.
This guide will discuss the benefits of a neurodiverse workforce and how neurodiversity in the workplace can be better supported with options such as assistive technology and specific neurodiversity training.
What is Neurodiversity?
Neurodiversity refers to the various ways in which the brain can function and interpret information. It emphasises how people naturally think about things in different ways. We all have varied interests and drivers, and we are all naturally better at some things than others.
The majority of people are neurotypical, which means that their brains work and process information in the way that society expects.
However, it is estimated around one in every seven people (more than 15% of the population in the UK) are neurodivergent, which means the brain functions, learns, and processes information differently. Attention Deficit Disorders, Autism, Dyslexia, and Dyspraxia are all examples of neurodivergence.
You most certainly know, work with, and associate with a large number of neurodivergent people, including relatives, colleagues, and friends. There are no two neurodivergent people who are exactly alike. As a result, each neurodiverse employee will bring a unique combination of abilities and talents to the workplace, as well as unique access and support requirements.
Why you should hire neurodivergent workers
Neurodiversity efforts can benefit the workplace in a variety of ways. Neurodivergent employees can contribute their abilities, skills, and views to your organisation’s mission and help enhance productivity and performance. More firms are recognising these advantages and have established hiring programmes aimed specifically at attracting neurodivergent workers.
Supporting neurodiversity at work and tapping into the abilities and talents of neurodivergent people can benefit organisations of all sizes and industries. These abilities and skills may include:
- Creativity and innovation
- Technical, design and creative abilities
- New approaches to problem solving
- Concentration levels that are extremely high
- Accuracy and the capacity to detect errors
- Strong information retention and precise factual knowledge
- Dependability and perseverance
- Ability to perform well in normal or repeated tasks
How can you create an inclusive environment for neurodiverse employees?
Because neurodivergence is rather frequent, the majority of workplaces are already neurodiverse. Nonetheless, most instances of neurodivergence are still poorly understood, and misconceptions persist. As a result, it makes sense for organisations to take steps to ensure that their neurodivergent employees feel appreciated, part of the team, and support employees in their efforts to achieve the organisation’s goals.
Making the workplace more inclusive can:
- Emphasise the company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion
- Minimise the stigma associated with the neurodivergent community
- Help employees feel secure and empowered to reveal neurodiversity
- Increase the likelihood neurodivergent employees will be treated appropriately by their managers and colleagues
- Expose the organisation to a reservoir of talent that would otherwise have gone unnoticed
- Assist in the retention of skilled workers and the reduction of recruitment costs.
Measures to take to support neurodivergent team members
Comply with legal obligations
Under the Equality Act 2010, being neurodivergent is usually considered a disability. This means the organisation is legally required to make reasonable adjustments to the workplace and the individual’s function in order to eliminate or minimise any disadvantage to them.
A workplace proactively designed to consider what may be done to accommodate the requirements of each employee can make it much easier to identify and implement adjustments for neurodivergent individuals.
These workplace accommodations may include certain assistive technologies which can help a neurodivergent person complete their work tasks.
Improve health and well-being
Employers should prioritise employee health and well-being. Employees that are healthy and motivated are more likely to perform well, be on time, and be engaged in their work. Many problems arise from a lack of understanding of neurodivergence or how the workplace environment affects neurodivergent personnel. Making the workplace more accommodating and supportive can alleviate much of the stress a neurodivergent worker faces and leads to improved mental health.
Remember everyone is different, and adjusting the workplace to better fit various requirements and preferences can improve the health and well-being of all existing employees.
Workplace needs assessments
Many people may be neurodivergent without being aware or having received a formal diagnosis. This implies they do not receive (or even seek) support at work or elsewhere. Having to cope without this help can have a negative impact on their health and well-being, leading to increased absence and poor performance.
Even employees who have been formally diagnosed may be unaware of what support is available or what support they require, making it challenging for employers to give adequate support while also meeting their legal requirements. While they may be aware of what works in the classroom, such as spending extra time on specific projects, this may not be suitable in a business environment.
What is a workplace needs assessment?
- An assessor interviews the employee and receives confidential input on performance levels from the individual’s manager or an HR representative.
- Evaluates their role’s responsibilities, the obstacles they face, and their performance to date
- Make’s recommendations to alleviate difficulties for the neurodivergent employee
Neurodiversity in the workplace FAQs
What are the signs of neurodiversity?
Being neurodivergent means having a brain that functions differently than the average or “neurotypical” person’s brain. This could be due to differences in social preferences, learning styles, communication styles, and/or environmental perception.
How can I be inclusive of neurodiversity?
To drive neurodiversity inclusion, you must consider support unique to each individual. Give prospective workers – and current employees (if you’re just getting started with this process) – opportunities to express their preferences. A good start would be to mention this in your job descriptions or adverts.
How can neurodiversity be supported in the workplace?
Make certain that your employees and supervisors have a thorough understanding of what it means to build and empower a diverse workforce. Create a culture in which people are comfortable disclosing and discussing their neurodiversity.
Looking for a training course that supports neurodiversity?
Our trained team can help educate your personnel on a variety of topics, including how to better represent neurodivergent individuals and how to recognise certain neurological problems and medical conditions.
Because we understand each organisation is unique, we offer bespoke training packages tailored specifically to your needs. We’ve got you covered with a variety of additional training programmes and services, including Mental Health at Work Training and Neurodiversity Training, as well as a variety of assistive technologies that can benefit employees with disabilities.